Astronomers have identified a distant exoplanet as a "super-Earth" that has the potential to harbor alien life. In 2015, another research team discovered the planet K2-18b and noted that it lies with the habitable zone.
Both planets orbit a red-dwarf star called K2-18 and fall within the star's habitable zone.
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Scientists believe that the discovery of K2-18b's super-Earth neighbor which also orbits the K2-18 star was a thing of good fortune.
"Being able to measure the mass and density of K2-18b was tremendous, but to discover a new exoplanet was lucky and equally exciting", said Ryan Cloutier, a PhD student at the University of Toronto and the Université de Montréal Institute for Research on Exoplanets.
With more than 3,000 exoplanets confirmed by NASA at this point, you might wonder what's so special about finding another one-but it's an incredibly rare phenomenon to confirm an exoplanet, let alone to find two super-Earths sitting right next to each other light years away from Earth. To do so, researchers used the La Silla Observatory in Chile, pulling data sets from the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), which can detect even very tiny planets that surround stars.
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They found K2-18b also has a sister planet they've called K2-18c - although it is not thought this is too hot for aliens.
A mysterious planet that lies 325 light years away from Earth has been found to have one of the most weird atmospheres ever observed. However, scientists weren't sure whether the planet had a rocky or terrestrial surface like Earth or if it was more like a Neptune kind of planet, which consists of gas and ice. But it is by studying its mass recently that an global team of scientists has learned that this planet was not only potentially habitable, but that it had also a neighbour. "Once all the boxes were checked it sunk in that, wow, this actually is a planet". Radial velocities can reveal slight wobbles caused by the pull of an exoplanet's gravity on its host star.
"With the current data, we can't distinguish between those two possibilities", said Cloutier.
Mr Cloutier added: "If you can get the mass and radius, you can measure the bulk density of the planet and that can tell you what the bulk of the planet is made of".
They will be able to know when the James Webb space telescope, the most complex and the most powerful ever built, will enter service in the spring of 2019.
Cloutier collaborated with an global team of researchers, including his supervisor U of T Scarborough Associate Professor Kristen Menou, and from the Observatoire Astronomique de l'Université de Genève, the Institute for research on exoplanets (iREx), Université de Grenoble and Universidade do Porto.